Saturday, April 26, 2008

Searching for an Agent?

It’s been said that getting an agent is as hard as getting a manuscript acceptance. I believe it. In fact, I’d say that it’s even harder. I’ve tried off and on for the past four years or so to acquire an agent, but haven’t had any success. I’ve sold many manuscripts though. And my writer colleagues tell me that once you have a few books out, it becomes much easier to acquire an agent. Hmm... Seventeen books later and still no agent. Yep, the agent quest is definitely more difficult for this little writer.

In the recent research of agents (by the way, if you know of any reputable agents who are just dying to acquire a contemporary adventure novel, you can give them my name ;-), I’ve come across a couple of things I’d like to share--in case you too are on the search.

First, is a fabulous article that Harold Underdown recently posted on his website, The Purple Crayon. Harold not only discusses agent basics (what they do for you, why you might need one, how to find one), he also helps writers to understand how to recognize good agents and avoid the “less scrupulous” ones; which is key. He’s even done a comparison on three different agent websites to help folks understand what to look for in researching agents online.

The other site I like is Chuck Sambuchino’s blog. Chuck is the editor for The Guide to Literary Agents (published by Writer’s Digest). His website is great, but I really like the blog too. He gives a lot of sound advice and interesting posts about this crazy business in which we work.

Happy searching~ may we all eventually find our perfect agent!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Holy Fairy GodSisters!!!

Well, I am simply flabbergasted! I was just reading some of my favorite blogs, when I got to the Shrinking Violets Promotions, and saw THIS.

Wow! Holy fairy godmother--I mean, godsisters! I'm never ceased to be amazed at the generosity of children's writers--particularly those who are in my SCBWI region (that would be the Ventura/Santa Barbara region).

Go on, check it out. I'll be here when you get back...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fun Stuff!

Okay, for a hilarious example of perfect wordplay, go to Mary Hershey’s blog. I never knew the Pillsbury Doughboy could be so funny, and leave it to Mary to show us just how much there is to poke fun at!

And for the second time in my blogging life, I’ve been tagged by a fellow writer, Patty Palmer. We bloggers are a playful bunch, aren’t we? And since my hubbie is teaching class right now and my cats are sleeping, I’ve got a few minutes to play along. So, here goes:

Rules for the game:
1. Put these rules at the beginning of your post.
2. Then answer each question (see below) in your post.
3. Tag five people at the end, then post a comment on each of their blogs letting them know you've tagged them, and ask them to check your blog for details.

What was I doing 10 years ago?
Ten years ago, I had just received my 1st degree Black Belt in taekwondo so I was in much better physical condition than I am now! Professionally, I was in my 21st year of teaching at the Montessori pre-primary level and my first thoughts of writing for children were surfacing in my mind. Personally, my son was finishing with middle school so I was very involved with his life.

Five Snacks I Enjoy:
1. Fresh blackberries.
2. Freshly picked cherries from Hood River, Oregon.
3. Movie popcorn (which I only eat about once a year because it’s got like a bazillion calories and way too many grams of fat and salt).
4. Edamame beans.
5. Oatmeal chocolate-chip FiberOne bars.

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Well, if you’re going to fantasize, go big!
1. I’d buy a summer vacation home in Hood River, Oregon where I could eat fresh cherries every summer until my stomach would feel ready to explode.
2. I’d buy a winter condo in Mammoth so my hubbie could snowboard and not have to make the long day drive to do it.
3. I’d donate a large part of it to D & S Animal Rescue Center (in Ridgecrest) so they could build a full-service facility to house and adopt out the hundreds of animals that they save annually.
4. I’d surprise my husband with a trip to Palau so we could scuba dive and swim in Jellyfish Lake.
5. I’d hire Stacy and Clinton from TLC’s “What Not to Wear” to find me a pair of jeans that actually fit. Of course, that might take all of the money because it wouldn’t’ be an easy task for them and I’m sure they’re expensive.

Five jobs that I have had:
1. Counter girl at Jack in the Box.
2. Temp-clerk.
3. Substitute teacher (all grades).
4. College teacher.
5. Montessori pre-primary teacher.

Three of my habits:
1. Checking my email way too often—I’m obsessed, what can I say?
2. On-demand petting and playing with my two cats (and my cats are very demanding but since they’re the world’s cutest and sweetest cats they deserve it).
3. Writing with my blue Hello Kitty pencil. I’m a fanatic about it. Any writing I’ve done for younger children has always started out with this pencil and a notepad. I won’t write with anything else, unless I’m away from home and caught without it—and then my creativity is less than stellar. Hello Kitty really motivates me, I suppose.

Five places I have lived:
Just five??? Here are the main ones:
Fort Worth, Texas.
Rochester, New York.
Mercer Island, Washington
Manhattan Beach, California.
Ridgecrest, California.

Five people I want to get to know better (i.e) TAG!
Catherine Ipcizade at Fresh from the Oven (Catherine is a fellow Sylvan Dell author)
Barbara Bietz at Jewish Books for Children with Author Barbara Bietz (Barbara is from my SCBWI region and one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met).
Greg Pincus at Gottabook (Greg is a poet who invented a unique poetry form called, “The Fib.”)
Tina Nichols Coury at Tales from The Rushmore Kid (Tina is from my SCBWI region and has her first book coming out soon).
Greg Trine at Melvin Beederman Superhero (Greg is a softspoken superwriter with a sharp wit).

Friday, April 18, 2008


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

MARY HERSHEY’S first book, a tall tale of sibling rivalry, entitled MY BIG SISTER IS SO BOSSY SHE SAYS YOU CAN'T READ THIS BOOK was published by Random House in 2005. THE ONE WHERE THE KID NEARLY JUMPS TO HIS DEATH AND LANDS IN CALIFORNIA was released by Razorbill last year, and was selected for the 2008 New York Public Library Best Books for Teens List. Her third book, TEN LUCKY THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED TO ME SINCE I NEARLY GOT HIT BY LIGHTNING, will be out this July, and she is currently working on her fourth book with Random House. In addition to being an author, Mary works for the Department of Veteran Affairs, is a personal coach, a former undercover hooker, and a wannabe yogi. She lives in Santa Barbara with her partner and two bipolar cats.

Mary is also a contributor to one of my favorite blogs in the whole wide world, Shrinking Violets Promotions, where she and Robin LaFevers help introverted writers (such as yours truly) learn how to promote their books and explore the world as an “innie.”

What is the most important aspect of writing a humorous novel and how do you achieve that?
Uh, how many humor writers does it take to answer that question? Four. One to answer it, one to make a joke about it, one to go around for the next six months telling it, and one to try in vain to screw it into a light socket. :->

It's a great question, Terry, and one could write volumes on it. Here's the cliff notes. I think the most important aspect is knowing your audience. You need to 'get' and target the developmental stage of humor that comes with the reader's chronological age. It is essential to understand the social, cultural and the contemporary variances in humor. What might be funny in 1983 is not necessarily funny in 2009. Humor is a tool to be used to achieve a specific effect on the reader. At it's very finest, humor has the ability to delight, teach, and relieve--helping the reader to both transcend and reclaim one's humanity.

This is a "Which came first, the chicken or the egg" kind of question. When writing a story, do you already have certain humor aspects in mind (funny plotline twists, main character traits and quirks, humorous secondary characters) or are these things discovered/developed as you progress through your story?
I always start with character, but that is a highly personal decision, not a craft one. There are essentially four types of humor: physical humor, humor of situation, humor involving play on word, and humor of character. In any one book, or even one scene, you may use any combination of all four of these. Where you choose to start building your story is unique to you.

I begin with character, experiment with their voice, and then I find just the right setting and situation for them. A stellar example of that is Lauren Tarshis' Emma Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree, a middle grade novel released in 2007. Emma Jean is a powerful character that drives this marvelously funny book all the way. Another storyteller might start with a seed of a humorous situation, then build from there, finding character(s) that would 'fit'. For example, apparently author/illustrator Mo Willems asked himself one day--What would happen if a pigeon tried to drive a bus? Physical humor and humor involving play on word usually grow from the characters and situations you have chosen.

So to summarize, chickens are funnier than eggs, but research has proven that ducks are the funniest animal at all. I hope that clears things up once and for all, Terry.

What's your favorite children's joke?
Why did the boy tiptoe past the medicine cabinet?

He didn't want to wake up the sleeping pills.

Thanks for the insightful answers and chuckles, Mary!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

TAE KWON DO! Nominated for Award

I love Google Alert! Yesterday I received a notice in my inbox that Tae Kwon Do! is on the list of nominees for The Garden State Book Award, in the Easy Reader category.
Wow--this is my first nomination for a state award, so I'm definitely doing the Snoopy dance! The winners of all book categories will be announced at the end of this month. The list is filled with many other terrific books, so I'm just honored to be right there with them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Interesting Read at Editorial Anonymous

I was "under the weather" last week so I'm just now getting caught up on reading my favorite blogs and websites. Man, it feels like I've been away for a month! Anyway, I just read a post on Editorial Anonymous that I thought was quite interesting. Her reader posted a question that I've often wondered about, particularly with novel submissions: What happens after you've sent out your full manuscript upon request?

I think writers ponder this often. After all, we don't know what goes on behind closed doors in those white ivory publishing towers. We fantasize that if our novel has been requested, it means an editor is eagerly awaiting its arrival, tapping her toe as she anticipates the mail delivery, then ripping the envelope from the mail carrier's hands leaving him with nothing but paper-cut hands and a quivering bottom lip.

Said editor hangs the "Do not disturb" sign on her office door and locks it tighter than a Brinks armored truck, tears open the package and sits back with the anticipation of reading the next Great American Novel. She cannot put down our masterpiece. She reads through the entire day, gleening the most inner satisfaction that's every been realized since the invention of reading. At 4:59 PM she throws open the door and runs down the hallway yelling, "Stop the presses! We must publish this NOW!" She calls us immediately and gushes endlessly about our brilliance and thanks us for letting HER be the lucky chosen one to first read our story. And she offers us a contract that would make JK Rowling look like the Little Match Girl.

No? Am I off a bit? Hmm... Okay, if you have any doubts, and want a taste of reality, head on over to her blog.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.
ANN WHITFORD PAUL writes picture books, poetry and early readers. Her books have won numerous awards including NY Times Notable books, Carl Sandburg Award for Children’s Literature, Bank Street College Best Books list, Notable Science and Social Studies Books, National Parenting Centers “Seal of Approval,” 2001 Recognition of Merit from the George C. Stone Center for Children’s Books of the Claremont Graduate University, and been nominated for numerous state reading awards. She teaches writing at UCLA Extension and her new titles include Count on Culebra, If Animals Kissed Good Night and Snail’s Good Night.

I’ve had the pleasure of taking one of Ann’s courses at UCLA and she recently presented a poetry workshop for my SCBWI chapter. She’s a marvelous teacher, master of poetry and has an extremely generous heart.

While many of us love to write in rhyme, not all stories are best told this way. How do you determine if a story is best suited to be written in a rhyme?
This is a tough question. My stories for younger children (toddlers) usually feel poetic from beginning inspiration. I hear a definite beat and the first few lines come easily. That doesn’t mean those lines are any good, or even that they’ll make it into the final manuscript, just that the writing starts out effortlessly. If, on the way, I discover I’m stretching to find rhymes, or the rhythm isn’t solid, and especially if my story goes on too long—over 400 words at most, it’s time to reevaluate.

Just because kids love rhyme and it helps them when it comes to reading, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to tell every story. However, if I do switch to prose, I make sure it’s poetic and that the words I chose bring forth a physical reaction that’s in line with the story. Little Monkey Says Good Night was always in prose, but became poetic when I focused on word sounds and onomatopoetic language. If Animals Kissed Good Night, started out as prose, but felt flat. Switching it into rhyme gave it new life. That’s what I love about writing. Every story is a new adventure.

Do you have any key advice for how to determine if your rhythm and rhyme is working?
The key word for both is consistent. If you start out with a rhyme pattern, you must continue that pattern. If you break the rhyme scheme, there must be a reason related to what’s going on in your story. For example, don’t break the rhyme scheme just because you can’t find the right word. Break the rhyme scheme if your character is suddenly thrown into danger. The same is true for rhythm. In my book Everything to Spend the Night, the girl had unpacked all of her goodies to stay at Grandpa’s. When she discovered she didn’t have her pajamas, I added an extra beat and broke the rhythm to signal to the reader that something was wrong. The best advice I can give regarding determining if your rhythm is working is to have someone else read your work and listen to where the stresses fall. If another person isn’t available, read your lines as though they were prose.

What is your favorite children's joke?
Q: What is Snake’s favorite subject in school?
A: Hisssssstory.

Thanks, Ann!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Blackberry Banquet Good News!

I just found out from Lee German of Sylvan Dell that Blackberry Banquet can now be pre-ordered and shipped out mid-May. That's a two month jump on it's release date! I feel like I'm going into my eighth month of labor, eagerly anticipating the birth of my baby (only this won't involve any pain and I'll get to sleep through the night :-).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

BLACKBERRY BANQUET Update: Three Months and Counting...

I thought I’d give an update on what’s going on with Blackberry Banquet. Not as blatant book promoting (well, maybe a tiny little bit), but more so to give yet-to-be-published folks an idea of what to expect after they sell that first manuscript.

The publication date is July 10, so I’m right at the three-month mark. Prior to this, I made a book trailer, designed and purchased bookmarks, and wrote articles for regional parenting magazines. And of course, I casually try to mention the book whenever I can (yes, I'm as subtle as one of those people you see on a traffic corner waving a sign over their head).

This week I compiled a list of State Awards and Adult-Given Awards for which my book is eligible to enter. I checked with the publicist at Sylvan Dell (she's a marketing marvel, I might add) to find out which awards they were subbing to, and together we’ve coordinated a nice list. In addition to the awards, I’ve also checked with "said publicist extraordinaire" about reviewers and we coordinated that list (she really did do most of the work--I simply gave additional input). And yes, this is all BEFORE the book is out. A lot of the award submissions and reviews are handled before the pub-date to help create buzz about the book.

I’m currently in the process of scheduling my book launch (which I know will be held at Adventure for Kids Bookstore in Ventura, CA), along with other signings in California, Oregon and maybe even Rhode Island (wow—talk about a national tour ;-). Once I confirm dates, I’ll add them to my online calendars and start thinking about what I’d like to do at each event.

This has been a terrific pre-publication experience so far. I’ll admit that with my other books, I never invested this much time in pre-release promotion. Why? Partly because my other publishers didn’t seem to want/need to include me in the process. Partly because I didn’t know any better. Partly because with each book I was learning a little more and with this one, it’s all rather serendipitous in that I feel like I *finally* know what to do and I have a publisher who makes me feel welcome in the process. Pretty cool, in my mind.

I’ll keep giving updates as the deadline approaches. There’s still much work to be done!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Calling It Quits?

Well folks, I’ve come to the decision that all of the fame that I’ve gained from writing for children is just too much for this little introvert. I mean really, how many pairs of dark glasses and wide-brimmed hats can one hide under?

And the wealth I’ve acquired in these past nine years has been so unexpected compared to what I thought it would be prior to becoming a children’s writer that I just can’t say enough about it!

Soooo, I’m packing my bags and moving to the Bahamas. The bag will include sunscreen, swimsuit, sundresses, flip-flops and enough cat food to last for my two spoiled feline traveling companions.

WHEN am I bailing on the writing world (and the rest of society too, I suppose)?

Let’s see, let me check my calendar...

Oh’s April 1!

Happy April Fool’s Day! ;-) (hee-hee)

For further goofiness ala Terry, click here to visit Tina Nichols Coury’s blog for more April Fool's Day fun.